Baseball is our national pastime, and it has, in many ways, mirrored what has gone on in our society for the past 100 years. Nothing embodies this cultural memory better than the cement and steel baseball stadiums of yesteryear. The new mega stadiums may be flashier (and, granted, have better amenities—Safeco Field’s food ordering by cell phone, anyone?), but it’s these beloved sacred shrines that honor bygone times…and are worth a vist this summer.
Fenway Park opened in April 1912, and has become the oldest stadium used by a professional sports team since Chicago’s Comiskey Park was torn down in 1991. It’s the home of the Boston Red Sox and sports many quirky architectural features such as “The Green Monster,” “Pesky’s Pole” and “The Triangle” that make it one of the most uniquely shaped stadiums in the majors. Most of these anomalies are due to the constraints placed upon where the stadium could be built in early twentieth-century Boston; the ballpark had to be built to fit the limited urban area that was available. Fenway Park will celebrate its centennial anniversary in April 2012 and there are no plans to replace it.
Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, is the only other “classic” ballpark from the early era of baseball still surviving, and it’s the second-oldest baseball stadium in MLB. Opened in April 1914, it was originally the home of a baseball team called the Chicago Whales, but its best-known tenants are the Chicago Cubs, who have played there since 1916. Known best for its ivy-covered outfield walls, the stadium nicknamed “The Friendly Confines” finally installed lights for night play in 1988, making it far and away the last stadium to do so. One final fact: With their last title coming in 1908, the Cubs have yet to win a World Series in Wrigley Field. Maybe we should cut that Bartman dude some slack.
A controversial baseball stadium since the beloved Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles after the 1957 season (something that is still not forgiven by many Brooklynites), Dodger Stadium was the first true “modern” baseball stadium. Ironically, it’s now the third-oldest park in the majors. The park opened for baseball in April 1962 (the Dodgers played in the Los Angeles Coliseum until Dodger stadium was ready) and featured an outfield wall that had symmetrical dimensions (unlike old city stadiums like Fenway) and innovative features like two large electronic scoreboards, a vast terraced parking area, an earthquake-proof design, and a covered and screened section of dugout-level seats behind home plate.
Angel Stadium of Anaheim
There really isn’t much to say about Angel Stadium of Anaheim (that’s a mouthful) except that it’s now the fourth-oldest MLB stadium. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (again, how moronic) play there and have since 1966, when they were known less-clunkily as the California Angels. As first designed, the stadium was very similar to Dodger Stadium. However, in 1996 the Walt Disney Corporation gained controlling interest in the Angels and completely renovated the stadium. Changes included new asymmetrical outfield dimensions and wall heights and some really cool-looking faux boulders in left field. Though not as notable as the first three. Angel Stadium of Anaheim is a pretty nice, classic ballpark.
Here we have one of those annoying corporately named stadiums, but any baseball purist will still call it the Oakland Coliseum. It opened in September 1966 and the American Football League’s Oakland Raiders were the first pro sports team to play there. Two years later, the city of Oakland lured the Athletics baseball team from Kansas City and re-dubbed them the Oakland A’s. The Oakland Coliseum was one of the first multi-purpose stadiums built. These stadiums, built to house both football and baseball, were often derisively referred to as “cookie cutter” stadiums and “concrete donuts” as they were all round and had concrete exteriors. Loathe the thought of visiting Oakland? Watch for the Coliseum in the new Brad Pitt movie Moneyball, in theaters this September.